How to Recover Deleted Emails in Gmail

Overview

Oftentimes we may delete emails that we later realize are important. The good news is that after you delete a Gmail message, it remains in the Trash for up to 30 days. This backup rule at least provides you the opportunity to retrieve some emails that were trashed accidentally or prematurely.

In this article we'll see how you can retrieve various kinds of emails in Gmail.

Recovering Individual Deleted Messages

Sometimes you just need to recover a single message. There are a few different scenarios that determine if you'll be able to restore an email message or not, which we'll explain below. To find the particular email, just use the Trash folder's search engine to zero in on what you needed back in your inbox.

When you can Restore Emails in Gmail

You can restore any email in your Trash within 30 days of it being deleted. But what if you have also deleted it from your Trash? In that case, you can only retrieve the email within 25 days of that particular deletion. However, you also need an administrator's account to do this.

When you can't Restore Emails in Gmail

If the email has been permanently deleted from your Trash more than 25 days ago, you will no longer be able to retrieve it. Even someone with administrator access will not be able to retrieve it for you. While annoying, this will hopefully serve as a lesson learned for future deletions.

Keep in mind that you also cannot restore emails that you have deleted from your drafts and spam folders. Deleted labels of any kind, singled or nested, will no longer be restored after deletion. You may also not be able to restore data deleted from the Trash, depending on the case. So, it is best to leave the emails in the Trash if you are unsure about what to do with them.

If the type of email you hope to retrieve belongs to this category, you may not need to read further. This guide can assist you with emails that are retrievable in the scenario above.

How to Recover Deleted Emails

After confirming that your email can still be recovered, you can follow these steps:

Checking Deleted Emails in Trash

To check the Trash for your deleted email, first find the Trash folder on the left side of your inbox. It is located near your labels and other inbox folders like "Sent", "Drafts", etc.

If you cannot find the Trash folder, click on the "More" down arrow. You should then see the word "Trash." Click on it, and you will find all of the emails you have deleted in the past 30 days.

Gmail 'More' folders button

There may be quite a few emails there, especially if you use Block Sender to block unwanted emails. To sort through them, you can use the search bar at the top to help narrow down the results and find your missing email.

Once you've located the email, click the checkbox next to it, then click the "Move to" icon at the top of the inbox. In that dropdown menu, select "Inbox".

Gmail move trashed emails to inbox

Your deleted email will now be back in your inbox.

Recovering Deleted Emails from Trash

Within 30 days of deleting an email, you can still recover the message from the Trash. However, suppose it was permanently deleted from the Trash, either via Block Sender or through your own manual action. In that case, you may have to try the other options that an admin can take to recover the message.

Where Deleted Emails Go

Within 30 days

The emails you delete will remain in your Trash for up to 30 days unless you permanently delete them from there. If the email is still in the Trash, then follow the instructions above to move it back to your inbox.

After 30 days

After 30 days, however, the email will be permanently deleted from your account. Still, you will have an extra 25 days to retrieve these emails with the help of an administrative account.

Beyond that, even an administrator's account will no longer be able to recover your deleted email.

Permanently Restoring Deleted Emails

Within 30 days

Suppose you remember to recover your data within 30 days of deleting it from your inbox. In that case, you should have no issues retrieving it yourself, even without administrator access.

In this case you can follow the instructions from above in which you go to the Trash folder, select the emails you want to recover, click the "Move to" icon, and then select "Inbox".

If you open the email from within the Trash folder, you can follow similar instructions as above by just clicking the "Move to" icon and selecting "Inbox".

Gmail moved trashed email to inbox

After 30 days

The good news is that you can still recover the emails you deleted within 25 days of being deleted from your Trash. However, the process may not be as simple anymore. This is because you cannot do it as a normal user, and the administrator's account will have to go further than the usual steps. We'll detail these steps in the next section.

Restoring Gmail Data from the Admin Console

One way to restore "permanently" deleted Gmail messages is through the Admin console. But if you let them fester there for more than 25 days, an administrator's account will no longer be able to save them.

Here are the steps that the administrator must take:

  1. Log into the G Suite Admin page with an administrator account.
  2. Find "Users" in the Admin console and open that page.
G Suite admin users page
  1. Search for the particular user that needs an email recovered.
  2. Hover your mouse over their name and click on the "More options" dropdown that appears, and then select "Restore data".
G Suite admin restore data option
  1. The admin console does not necessarily allow you to browse deleted emails. So, you will have to enter the date when the email was received. You may have to use a range of dates if you cannot remember the specific date.
  2. Under "Application", select "Gmail".
  3. Click on "Restore". All deleted emails from the specified range of dates will be restored.
G Suite admin restore data

Retrieving from Vault

This retrieval solution depends on whether your organization uses Google Vault. If it does, you may may even be able to retrieve email that has been deleted permanently for more than 25 days.

In order to get to Google Vault, open the "Google apps" menu from your email account and click on "Google Vault".

G Suite Google Vault app
  • After opening Google Vault, you must select "Matters" from the list.
  • When you click on Matters, you will see if you have access to the files or not. Only Administrators can move forward.
  • You must create a Matter to go to the Search options screen. The above can be found on the left-hand sidebar.
  • The Search section will allow you to type in your Search method of choice (Users/Organization email), what source you need (all data), and the type of data you are trying to access (Mail).
  • To zero in on the file you need, you may even type in a few "terms."
  • After entering your search criteria, you can run the search.
  • You will then get your Vault Drive search results. Scan the results for the email(s) you want to restore.
  • Once you have found the email, click on "Export Results". This action will export your data as a local file.
  • Gmail files will be exported in .PST or .MBox formats.

At this point, you have retrieved your files and just need to restore them to the Google Suite environment.

Importing from the Vault into Google Drive
  • Drag and drop your retrieved files into a specific folder in your Drive. You may also use the upload feature to do this. Set your Google Drive to convert the uploaded files into your desired Google Docs editor format.
  • Since you want to specifically restore email(s), and not just any data, from the Vault to Gmail, you need to go through one more step.
  • You must use a third-party application, such as Mozilla’s Thunderbird to export data in .MBox format. The add-in "ImportExportTools" will be valuable to your success in importing the data.

On the other hand, you will need Outlook if you are exporting the data in .PST format.

In the end, avoiding having to go through this exhausting emergency recovery plan is best. You are better off with a backup instead of sacrificing productivity and file security by going through all the above steps.

Conclusion

Accidents can happen, and many of us have found ourselves in this predicament a one point or another. Maybe you deleted it by accident, or maybe you meant to delete it, not fully understanding its value until later. Regardless, it'll help to have these options at your disposal in case you need to go through them.

In this article we walked through the various methods for recovering deleted emails, whether they're just in trash or if they've been deleted from trash. We also saw how administrators can help recover emails using various methods like the admin console or Google Vault.

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